The 12-4 Los Angeles Chargers:
After clinching a playoff berth in Week 15 by defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 29-28, the Los Angeles Chargers went on to beat the Denver Broncos 23-9 in Week 17, but, due to a tiebreaker, they placed second in the AFC West and became the 5th seed in the playoffs.
The Chargers have a top-ten quarterback, Philip Rivers, who once again quietly had a solid season, throwing for 4,308 yards and 32 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.
This Los Angeles team is 7-1 on the road and 9-3 against AFC opponents, but in this matchup, they’ll have to figure out how to find the end zone against the league’s number one defense better than they did in Week 16 when they lost to the Ravens, 10-22.
The 10-6 Baltimore Ravens:
The Baltimore Rhhavens clinched the AFC North division title and the AFC sixth playoff seed in Week 17 after barely defeating the resurging Cleveland Browns 26-24 in a game that, had they lost, would have sent the Pittsburgh Steelers into the post season instead.
After their Week 10 bye, the 4-5 Ravens benched their veteran quarterback Joe Flacco and began starting their rookie first-round draft pick Lamar Jackson, and since then have gone 6-1, their only loss against the mighty Kansas City Chiefs.
Baltimore defends M&T Bank Stadium well, their home record 6-2, and they’re 8-4 against AFC opponents, but it’s most likely their number one ranked defense that has them slightly favored in this one as well as the fact that they just won this same matchup two weeks ago.
What’s at stake:
These two teams have met 12 times, with Baltimore winning 7 games and Los Angeles winning 5 games. The Ravens have won 3 of the last 5 meetings, their last one this season in Week 16, the score was Ravens 22, Chargers 10.
Whoever wins this matchup will go on to the Divisional Round of the playoffs next.
They’ll either play the number one seeded AFC team, the 12-4 Kansas City Chiefs, or the number two seed, the 11-5 New England Patriots, but right now those games are listed as TBD (to be determined).
And of course, whichever team loses this one goes home, their 2018 season finally over.
Questions to answer…
Who’s favored to win this Wild Card Weekend Chargers-Ravens matchup?
Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?
Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?
We’re going to compare the Chargers and the Ravens and attempt to answer those questions and more.
The 2018 Chargers offense ranked 11th in the NFL
The Chargers are a top-ten scoring franchise, averaging 26.8 points per game and moving the ball a total of 372.6 yards per outing.
They also have a top-ten passing attack, with Rivers and company throwing for an average of 255.6 yards per game and scoring 32 of the team’s 48 total touchdowns.
Wide receiver Keenan Allen’s sixth NFL season has been the second best of his career, with 97 catches for 1,196 yards and 6 touchdowns in the regular season.
Chargers’ rushing attack ranked 15th overall
Melvin Gordon is one of those new-fangled NFL dual threat running backs, effective on the ground and through the air.
Gordon ran 175 times for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns while catching 50 balls for 490 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Los Angeles offensive Injuries
Listed as questionable for Wild Card Weekend: running back Austin Ekeler (groin).
Tight end Hunter Henry, who was placed on the PUP list in Week 1, could suit up for this game but head coach Anthony Lynn hasn’t made a decision yet and says if Henry did play he’d be on a ‘pitch count’.
The 2018 Ravens offense ranked 9th overall
Baltimore scores almost as much per game as the Chargers do, putting up 24.3 points a game and moving the ball a total of 374.9 yards every outing.
Rookie Jackson has used his ability and willingness to run to keep defenses off guard, and in the seven games he’s started he’s thrown for 1,201 yards and 6 touchdowns with 3 interceptions while running for 695 yards and 5 more touchdowns.
Baltimore’s best receiver in the regular season was John Brown, who only caught 42 passes for 715 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Baltimore’s run game 2nd in the league
Credit Jackson and his constant threat to run with the team’s newfound ability to move the ball on the ground, which they do for 152.6 yards every game on average.
Also credit undrafted free agent running back Gus Edwards, a rookie who has stepped up for 718 yards on the ground off of 137 carries with two touchdowns.
Baltimore offensive Injuries
There are currently no offensive Ravens players listed as injured.
Chargers Defense ranks 9th in the league
The Chargers allow their opponents to score an average of 20.6 points and move the ball a total of 333.7 yards per game, their rush defense and their passing defense both ranked 9th.
Los Angeles’ 13 interceptions is middle of the road, tied for 15th most, and their 38 sacks puts them in the bottom half of the league, T-19th.
Chargers Defensive Players to watch:
Tied for the 29th most tackles in the NFL is Chargers free safety Derwin James, who has 105 combined tackles as well as 3.5 sacks and 16 passes defended.
James is also tied for 17th most regular season interceptions with 3, the same number of picks as defensive back Desmond King has.
The Chargers big sack man is defensive end Melvin Ingram, who has 7.0 sacks and 43 tackles with an interception, 4 passes defended, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Chargers defensive injuries
Listed as Out for Wild Card Weekend: linebacker Jatavis Brown (ankle), who will be out for the remainder of the season.
Ravens Defense is first overall
The Ravens defense shuts opponents down, allowing them to score just 17.9 points per game (2nd least) and moving the ball a total of 292.9 yards (best in the league), their rush defense ranked 4th and their passing defense ranked 5th.
For such a solid defense, their interception total (12) is low, tied for 18th in the league, and their sack total (43) is barely better than average, tied for 11th most.
Ravens Defensive Players to watch:
Check out inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, the guy is a monster with 105 tackles and half a sack.
Speaking of sacks, outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith has 8.5 of them along with 45 tackles and a forced fumble.
Cornerback Brandon Carr has the most Raven interceptions with 2 of them, plus he’s defended 13 passes and made 45 tackles.
Ravens Defensive Injuries
Listed as questionable for Wild Card Weekend: cornerback Tavon Young (groin).
Special Teams Stats Comparison
Los Angeles’s punter, Donnie Jones, a free agent pickup acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles in October, has punted 47 times for a net average of 38.0 yards per punt, ranked 32nd in the NFL.
Baltimore’s punter, Sam Koch, is a 12-year veteran who has punted 60 times for a net average of 39.8 yards per punt, ranked 16th in the NFL.
Los Angeles’s placekicker, Michael Badgley, a free agent pickup from the Indianapolis Colts in October, is 15-for-16, his longest has been the 59-yarder he kicked while going 4-for-4 against the Bengals in Week 14.
Badgley hast missed one extra point attempt (27/28).
Baltimore’s veteran All-Pro placekicker, Justin Tucker, has gone 35-for-39, his longest was a 56-yarder.
Tucker has missed one extra point attempt (36/37).
Los Angeles’s punt returner, cornerback Desmond King, is ranked 9th in the league in return average.
King has returned 23 punts for 318 yards, averaging 13.8 yards per return, his longest was a 73-yard return for a touchdown in Week 13 against the Steelers.
Baltimore’s punt returner, Cyrus Jones, is ranked 5th in the league.
Jones has returned 18 kicks for 259 yards, averaging 14.4 yards per return, his longest being a 70-yard return for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders in Week 12.
Chargers–Ravens prediction and odds
The odds makers have the Ravens favored over the Chargers by 2.5 with an over/under of 41.5.
CBSSports.com has two final score predictions:
Ryan Wilson goes with the under and has it Ravens 20, Chargers 17
John Breech takes the under and predicts it Ravens 19, Chargers 16